By Jeffrey Bridgman
Are you resolved to find a new job in 2011? If so, a resume review is in your future. Vamping or revamping a resume is somewhat like writing a persuasive essay or making a good speech. We have to present ourselves in a way that will convince potential employers that we would make good employees. This one-page summary of who we are and why the company should hire us needs to clearly and concisely communicate why we are a good match for the open position. It’s the resume that determines if we get an interview, and the interview, the job.
The first thing to know about resumes is that it is not necessary to hire a professional to put one together. Even if we’re clueless on such matters, chances are we know someone who will help. Barter a homemade dinner or night at the movies in exchange for a friend or relative’s time in helping craft your resume. With the many sample and real resumes that can be found online now, it’s easy to find a style and tone that fits our needs. BestSampleResume.com has resumes from about 50 categories of employment, as well as many resume-writing helps.
With a few good samples at the ready, the next thing to do is collect all the info we will need to put the resume together. With this in hand, the resume can come together quickly—in about an hour.
Info You Need
Name and contact information—obviously.
Name, contact info and dates attended for all schools and training. If you have a college degree, no need to list high school, unless you attended a particular school that might get you brownie points with your perspective employer, such as a hoity-toity private school or a military academy.
Name, contact info and dates for all significant past employment.
Titles and dates of any awards, publications or presentations that are relevant to the job search.
Dated list of volunteer activities (and names of organizations).
Elements of the Resume
Now that we have the ingredients for a good resume, we should craft a basic resume, and then we may need to tailor our resume to specific job openings.
The objective statement is one of the easiest places to customize a resume for a specific opening. Although these statements aren’t necessary, they can help clarify career goals. The statement should be a good match with the company we want to work for and should be substantive. Say something more than “I want to work for you” in so many words. Tell the prospective employer about your goals and how working for this company can help you achieve them.
What comes next depends on our strengths. If we are a recent grad without much experience, list education next. If we have some professional accomplishments that are relevant to our new job search, list experience next. Either way, list work and education in reverse chronological order—most recent first.
For education info, include GPA and class rank only if impressive. Include honor societies, study abroad, and of course, the certificate/degree/diploma earned and either the date earned or the date by which we anticipate earning it.
When listing work experience, visually and verbally focus attention on things that demonstrate initiative, responsibility, leadership and achievements. Explain how well you did the job, as opposed to what the job consisted of. Also important, but not the primary focus, should be company, job title and dates worked. Exceptions here will include high profile companies or easily recognized titles, such as Time Warner and Executive Director, President or Founder (don’t laugh!). Bury titles like “intern” and “customer service rep.”
Particularly important for those in technical fields is a skills section. Examples include programming languages and software packages. These can also be packaged as “Competencies” and expanded to list soft skills such as typing speed, familiarity with office equipment, foreign language fluency, etc.
Finally, honors, awards and activities, including volunteer work, hobbies and significant travel, demonstrate your dedication and involvement, as well as giving you an on-paper personality. This is more important when lacking much work experience.
Stats are that a resume gets just seconds of consideration before the interviewer either trashes it or reads further. Keep it to one page, but if you have to use two, put the meat up front and center on page one. Use bullet points, which are quicker to read and scan. Use a good balance of white space, keeping the design consistent, professional and simple.
Use standard serif fonts (san serif is okay for headers). Don’t try to be unconventional with design, unless the job has something to do with artistic ability. Keep things organized and visually grouped together.
Be honest. If you land a job based on exaggerated qualities or skills, it will be obvious that someone lied on their resume, and that’s not the way to start out a new professional relationship.
Resumes don’t have to tell everything. A well-written cover letter will add more depth to our resume and we can tell the rest in the interview.
Of extreme importance, have someone else who has not worked on the resume proofread it and critique it. Colleges have a career development centers, and in high school, use the guidance counselor to proof and critique.
Print the resume on good quality paper, in white, cream or other very light shade. Best bet is to take it to a local copy shop and ask for a laser print-out on a good linen paper.
This may sound like a lot to consider, but when we bite the bullet and sit down in front of the computer, it’s fairly painless and over quickly. Being thorough and respecting the necessity of a professional resume are two concrete steps toward the job of our dreams.